We’ve got interviews with Pinkwater and Webmaster Ed coming, but you may recall that I hinted that we might have a surprise guest…
It’s man-about-town and kidlit expert, Professor Walter Hogan! Hogan wrote the book “The Agony and the Eggplant: Daniel Pinkwater’s Heroic Struggles in the name of YA Literature” about Pinkwater and his books. He very graciously agreed to write a little more especially for Avocado of Death Week!
1) Why have you devoted so much of your time to the works of Pinkwater? What’s he got that’s different from all the rest?
I began reading Pinkwater for entertainment around 1980, at the point in his career when he had been writing (and illustrating) picture books for a decade, but had just begun writing longer works such as Alan Mendelsohn (1979) — at 248 pages still Pinkwater’s longest novel.
Most of my serious research on Pinkwater was done while writing my 2001 book,The Agony and the Eggplant. I’ve mentioned Pinkwater’s work briefly in the two books I’ve written since then: Humor in Young Adult Literature (2005) and Animals in Young Adult Literature (in press, 2009 publication.)
I love Pinkwater’s wild sense of humor and his affection for quirky, urban establishments like The Deadly Nightshade Diner—We Never Close. He’s also a brilliant satirist and superb at exposing pretentiousness.
2) What’s your favorite Pinkwater book? Why? And when did you first read it?
My single favorite work by Daniel Pinkwater is Slaves of Spiegel. My favorite novel-length Pinkwater book is Avocado. Both works were published in 1982, and I read both in the early 1980s, shortly after they were published.
My son was born in 1975, and he really liked having stories read to him at bedtime. He was exposed to most of the Pinkwater corpus during his formative years. He is now an orthopedic surgeon, so the Pinkwater influence must have been fairly benign. Some of my other Pinkwater favorites: Wingman, the Blue Moose trilogy, Young Adult Novel, and Young Adults.
3) As an expert on Children’s Literature, what do you make of The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death? I mean it’s a total mess. The plot doesn’t start until halfway through the book. The avocado shows up for about one page. The main characters don’t do all that much or figure anything out – the adult detective just bosses them around. Today an editor would demand more character development. It should be a terrible book. But it’s sublimely wonderful!
The key to the apparent plot messiness of Avocado is recognition that Walter’s father (and other adults) are playing double roles. [WHAT??????] See the relevant pages from my book… Aside from that, I think that the greatest charm of Avocado is the rich atmosphere of urban nightlife that it captures so well.
4) Ever since reading The Neddiad, I’ve felt like there might be some sort of holistic Pinkwater cosmology. A grand unified theory of some sort, that’s just beyond my grasp.
Do you have any thoughts along these lines? Or does Pinkwater just toss in random memories and kooky ideas as needed? (My new interview with Pinkwater suggests the latter.)
Oh, absolutely, there’s a Pinkwater cosmology. There’s a lot of unity to Pinkwater’s universe. As with the comic universes of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, the Monty Python players, and other such madmen. I mentioned some of Pinkwater’s persistent themes in my book, for instance: food, gluttony, fatness, urban life, urban nightlife, nostalgia for the 1950s, dogs & other pets, art, inspiration, and creativity.
I explored connections between his picture books, short novels, and full-length novels. And I explored how René Daumal’s Mount Analogue influenced what I called Pinkwater’s four “expedition novels:” Lizard Music, Yobgorgle, Worms of Kukumlima, and Borgel.
But there’s certainly room for further interpretation of his wonderfully creative mind.
The man is a national treasure.
Word up, on that, Professor! But what’s this dual role business?